Empty Houses, VI (Death)

The blond girl would rip merrily around town on her bike. She was pretty and svelte and deeply good natured. She loved to play with my kids. She acted much younger than her preteen years.  She was what my grandmother would have called simple.  I prayed for her, every time I said goodbye to her at the park.

Their house was surrounded by a moat of car parts, old bikes, mysterious treelawn finds, bags of trash. I didn’t really get her family, who was who. But she was cared for, and they were nice folks. They were friendly and laughed a lot.

Like most of our town, their house backs onto a cemetery, a field of Victorian tombs, glitzy new stones, tiny American flags, and creepy little solar powered lights. It may be bigger than the town itself, area-wise. Beyond it roll well-grazed meadows, narrow roads, dark woods.

I saw the girl walk past our house one day, arm and arm with a man. He had a cane and dark glasses. This, I found out later, was her father. She smiled as they went down together to a class at the martial arts studio. For some reason, someone ran a martial arts studio here for a while. It’s closed now.

It was like something out of Faulkner, but with less Spanish moss.

At some point, the father died. He was ill, on top of whatever other challenges he faced. The girl moved to be with her mother, who lived in another state.

One day, the house was empty. A lot of the stuff was still there, but the vehicles weren’t. It’s still empty, though someone bought it and is fixing it up, replacing the deck, towing away the ancient trailer in the backyard, painting the molding bright blue.

There’s a peculiar lawn ornament still there, a grey ankh symbol sitting in the front under a butterfly bush, though. That was from before.

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